The world of music production is full of a great variety of applications, yet each one you can find may be even more difficult than would be desirable. Reason Essentials arrived as the basic release of the multitrack Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) developed by the Swedish software Company Propellerheads, known for their award-winning programs used in the music industry. This sound suite presents the necessary elements for starting making music the moment your download and install it, with just a little knowledge about production. If you never tried similar software before, Reason Essentials is simple enough to learn and arrange your own self-produced songs and so complex that will take you some time to master it completely.
Reason Essentials is simple enough to learn and arrange your own self-produced songs and so complex that will take you some time to master it completely
Once you run the software, you will see that it is very similar to Reason 7 since the User Interface is exactly the same but for some elements on the track that are missing. The program’s workspace is designed to pay attention to just two different parts, the upper rack where you find the different sound modules you choose and the arrange section that is generally located below the track. These parts can be customized and split apart, which really makes it very useful in case you have two displays connected to your computer.
Unlike other similar applications, Reason Essentials stands out thanks to its visual element that makes it more intuitive than most of its competitors. Although it is recommended to have some technical knowledge about sound, the application is designed so it would not be too dependent on this part, offering digital instruments ready to be played. The default settings will be enough for the average user, but if you want to, you can configure external MIDI devices such as Keyboards or other kind of control surfaces that make it easier to have full control over the software with hardware elements.
How to use
The main argument to use Reason Essentials, or any version from Propellerheads, is that you can create your songs with good sound quality without investing too much on your studio. Of course, the better equipment you own, the better final result you'll have, but that is not a mandatory part for creating good tracks from scratch. The possibilities this suite offers are up to you since it is designed to let your creativity flow, at least according to the developer team. For what we could test, it is true that the interface and the general design allow you to be more spontaneous than with other DAW programs.
In order to start using this software, once it is completely configured, you will have to understand the function of each element on the screen. The Mixing module is basic on any project since it will control the volume of each new element and the general song. Creating a new digital instrument will make it be automatically wired to the mixer, which you can check by changing the view mode on the Window menu or pressing the tab key to see the previous part. Don’t let this view overwhelm you since there is no need to know advanced wire configuration for creating a good song.
The new instruments and modules you create are fully editable modifying their values in the visual representation of the module in the track or adding filters and additional effects included by default in Reason Essentials. Once you have created all these parts you can create your own free tracks playing your connected MIDI device, which is the highly recommended option, or putting the notes directly with your mouse or your computer keyboard in the instrument section in the piano roll that appears below. The use of a beat loop in your project will make it easier thanks to the ones that are included, or voice instruments that emulate choirs.
You can create your songs with a good sound quality without investing too much on your studio
You can modify at your will the Beats Per Minute (BPM) of the project at any moment with the realtime timestretch function, directly typing the value you want or tap on the rhythm button that appears beside, which is really helpful since it will grant a correct modification of the project. Taking a look at the ReGroove Mixer you can modify the quantize feature making the notes alter the place they occupy, giving a jazzy feeling.
Reason Essentials is compatible with ReWire, which allows you to use the features of this software in other DAWs such as FL Studio, Cubase or Logic Pro for Mac OSX. This function lets the user use a different application as the main Digital Workstation using the instruments and effects from Reason into the other program. Using this, you can make the most of your projects by using external modules that can be only used in other host programs for several enhancements, as well as combining tracks from different sources.
The ReWire feature opens new ways for your tracks thanks to the possibilities that other sequencer can offer, but that is not completely necessary for making professional songs. If you have used before other similar music production software you can combine both applications, but due to the last updates Reason Essentials will be enough just by itself for starting producing music.
Although Reason Essentials is more than enough to make into the music producing world, it is a basic version of more complete music software that is Reason. Both applications work in the same way, but they differ in the components they include and the compatibility with external soundbanks. While Reason supports all the existing ReFills that have been released by Propellerheads or by other users, for the purchase or to download free, the Essentials version has restricted the compatibility with some of them, but these ReFills are mostly supported by default.
Since the Essentials edition is more focused on the creative part than in the technical aspects of the sound, the limitations on general sound effects and the mixer are minimized. Effects like the PH-90 Phaser, the Pulveriser Demolition Unit or audio compressors are not included, nor a 2-band limited equalizer. However, its users will still enjoy popular effects like the Scream 4 Distortion module and even digital Amps for guitar and bass, as well as the indispensable MClass Mastering Suite that will give your tracks the sound you always wanted to create.
The Essentials edition is more focused on the creative part than in the technical aspects of the sound
Personally, where I noted the most the limitations of Reason Essentials were the moment I find out that Thor Polysonic Synthesizer and Malström Graintable Synthesizer were not available in this edition. For these synths fans, this is really bad, and without the Kong Drum Designer, a module that really emulates the popular Akai MPC hardware series, the Essentials version may be not so essential in some users’ eyes. At least Subtractor, NN-XT Advanced Sampler and Redrum Drum alongside with Dr. Octo Rex Loop Player for beat making or loop playing are included by default.
The use of the samplers that Reason Essentials incorporates in its package can make all the difference. This latest version is compatible with different audio formats like mp3, wma and aac, things that weren’t possible before, and can be editable directly from the sequencer, thanks to the tools it offers for cutting and setting volume levels.
With NN-XT Advancer Sampler, you will be able to include all kinds of instruments, as long as you have it sampled. You can play from electric pianos to guitars or even a whole orchestra with just a single touch of a key. Inspecting what this advanced sampler hides can take you more time than you have ever imagined due to the editing tools, LFO filters, modulation functions and amplitude envelope that can be expanded by clicking on the part immediately below the module.
Digital Instruments and Effects
Music, as we know it at this moment, would be impossible without instruments; no matter if they are analog or digital, and thesound is what it really matters. Reason Essentials includes a basic collection of synths and beat making modules that feature different kinds of sounds with the possibility of modifying them as you wish with the different options. The Subtractor Synthesizer grants a fully customizable sound, offering a futuristic-vintage module monophonic synth.
The great variety of effects modules for different instrument or voice tracks increases the yet great possibilities it offers. Sound destruction thanks to Scream 4, auto tune extensions with Neptune and, of course, the equalizer that will let you add your personal view of the sound as well as you use a sound analyzer for making the most of the basses and other instruments.
One of the main parts of Reason Essentials is the sequencer in which the notes arranged are shown. Besides being the pentagram of the program, in a clear music reference, it allows the user to modify the notes printed. The sequencer includes unique tools such as automation for configuring volume curves, intensity and filter sweeps. If you are playing a MIDI keyboard, you can quantize the notes for placing them where they should be according to the cell and BPM tempo.
The sequencer allows high-precision modification thanks to the zooming tool, being able to move each note individually, copy, paste or crop them as you need. A good addition to the sequencer is the Blocks, which allows the user to save bars and use them in groups like, for example, for chorus bars or different beat changes.
Some versions ago it was unbelievable that Reason would include a mode for recording external audio in its own engine, but then Propellerheads released Record that worked alongside with the host DAW and allows you to import your external instruments and vocals into your Reason projects. Later on, with the last versions Record was natively included in the complete package, and now you can directly record whatever you want as long as you have it plugged in properly.
As long as you want to create, Reason offers the tools for it
Using an external Audio Interface such as Balance, the official hardware produced by Propellerheads, you can insert different tracks no matter what their source is. Get voice tracks, guitar, bass or the real instrument you want as long as it has a line connection. This enhances the possibilities and shows that Reason Essentials is not only focused on electronic music, but also has its content for acoustic and even other genres. As long as you want to create, Reason offers the tools for it.
Expandability: Rack Extensions
A usual claim about Reason has been that there is no way for directly inserting external software instruments or effects to the program’s core; we mention that it didn’t support plugins, which really ruined the experience for some users. Propellerheads decided then that it was time to open up the possibility for third-parties to introduce their self-created sound modules into Reason. For this purpose, the Rack Extensions were created, and now they offer a whole new world of sound possibilities, increasing the number of functions and effects over the default included.
In Reason Essentials, these extensions are also available to download without any kind of limitation, so it is the perfect opportunity for its users to enhance the bare Essentials version. Amongst the new elements that you can use, you can find the celebrated Audiomatic Retro Transformer, Parsec Spectral Synthesizer, Radical Keys or Polar, a pitch-shifter and harmonizing solution. All these elements are available for purchase in the official store where you can also try them free on your computer.
Although this is a good initiative, Reason still lacks an open platform for including external plugins that have not been specially approved by the developers. This way you won’t be able to use Waves Audio Plugins and VST or AU instruments depending on the OS which with you work. Nowadays the lack of this kind of freedom really worsens the user experience, for this reason the ReWire feature was included, to make the most of it.
Reason Essentials 2.1.1 Features
Check the unique features of Reason Essentials:
- Unlimited audio and instrument tracks depending only on your system's resources
- Use it combined with other audio sequencers thanks to the default inclusion of ReWire
- Increase the quantity of available sounds with external ReFills and soundbanks to download with more audio content such as voices, instrument loops and new beats
- Add new tools and sound modules thanks to the compatibility with the Rack Extensions developed by Propellerheads
- Plug in your MIDI device surface control interface and use it with a simple configuration
- Record external instrument and voice tracks without external software directly through an audio interface
- Take control of each aspect of the audio waves thanks to the sequencer view and tools included such as the Groove Control
- Create your own personal instrument thanks to combinators and create your own personal effects like a radio-ready filter
For further details before you get the download, be free to visit the developers’ website through this
Check the minimum requirements for running Reason Essentials:
- Operating System: Windows 7, Mac OSX 10.7 onwards
- Processor: any Dual Core CPU model
- Memory: 4GB RAM or more for proper use
- Space: 3GB free space for software only and additional for soundbanks
- ASIO driver for Windows, Core Audio or built-in audio hardware for OSX